The Kennedy Center

Stewart Wallace

Video and Audio

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    Understanding the Music: Wallace - "Skvera" Electric Guitar Concerto

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    Meet the Musician: Stewart Wallace on the rehearsal process

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    Meet the Musician: Stewart Wallace on working with Maestro Slatkin


Stewart Wallace was born in Philadelphia but grew up in Texas. He describes himself as an entirely self-taught composer; he began writing music when he was eight years old, wrote his first opera as his thesis for an interdisciplinary honors program when he was a student at the University of Texas at Austin, and then proceeded to amass prizes, awards, fellowships and commissions. His big breakthrough came with his fifth opera, Harvey Milk (libretto by Michael Korie; directed by Christopher Alden), commissioned jointly by the Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera and San Francisco Opera. Following that work's hugely successful premiere in Houston in January 1995 it was produced at Lincoln Center, then in Germany, and then in San Francisco, where it was also recorded. A related choral-orchestral work, Kaddish for Harvey Milk, commissioned by the Madison Symphony, was introduced by that Wisconsin orchestra in February 1997 and performed in London five years later by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Singers under Jac Van Steen. Wallace's first collaboration with Michael Korie, Where's Dick?, was introduced by the Houston Grand Opera, with Richard Foreman directing, in 1989; their next collaboration, Kabbalah, presented in the Next Wave Festival in Brooklyn in the same year, has been recorded as well.

Wallace's 1997 opera Hopper's Wife (again with a Korie libretto), produced by the Long Beach Opera, is described by the composer as an "imagining of what would happen if the painter Edward Hopper married the Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and Ava Gardner was the artist's model." Richard Foreman was both librettist and director of Wallace's subsequent opera Yiddisher Teddy Bears, set on New York's Lower East Side about a hundred years ago and sung entirely in Yiddish-accented English with a punk-klezmer score. His first film score was for David Baker's Afraid of Everything, which had its premiere at the Sundance Festival in 2000; he later composed the score for the same director's Seven Days, whose first showing was at this year's Rotterdam Film Festival.

Other Wallace film scores are those for Alan Brown's Book of Love and the Alison Maclean/Tobias Perse Persons of Interest, both of which had their premieres at this year's Sundance Festival. His three-act ballet Peter Pan was given its premiere by the Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet in April 2000. Among works awaiting their respective premieres now are The Bonesetter's Daughter, an opera based on the recent novel by Amy Tan (who will collaborate with Michael Korie on the libretto), and another opera with Mr. Korie, called Supermax.

By Richard Freed
Photo of Stewart Wallace


  • "Skvera"